Welcome To Oz

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AP / CBS
"Tipper, Laura … I don't think we're in Kansas anymore," George and Al told their wives, in unison.

"No, dears, we're in Oz."

And so are we all. Oz is a weird and scary place. And this time, there's no Wizard.

So in the absence of the Wizard, we like Dorothy, can offer only some "small and meek" suggestions for following the Yellow Brick Road ahead.

The Scarecrow Syndrome: Too much thinking can be a bad thing.

Americans are now being subjected to scenario hell. What if Gore concedes but the courts rule that there must be a new election in Palm Beach? What if litigation continues past Inauguration Day? What if Clinton is president forever and ever? What if…

Legally and politically, there is no clear precedent for any of what is going on now. There just isn't. No one knows much more than you do, as the Scarecrow himself learned.

Imagining all the possible scenarios will fill chat rooms, talk radio airwaves, cable news stations, campaign consultants' hard drives and lawyers' briefcases. Don't try to keep track of them. Don't believe any predictions. Just follow what actually happens, step by step, and understand that as clearly as possible.

The Lion's Roar: Inventing Spin in the Recount Era

When people like Bill Daley, Karl Rove, James Baker and Warren Christopher hold press conferences, they are simply roaring and scaring us Totos. But they are backed by no certainty and little strength. They are, in a word, spinning. They are trying to win a battle of public opinion. And they're winging it. So be skeptical of all of them. In fact, if you hear yourself being strident and certain in your own pronouncements, be skeptical of yourself.

When and if the principles in this epic drama begin to transform from being pols and hacks into statesmen and leaders, you will know it. That's the time to begin listening without cynicism.

The Tin Man's Tears: So much pain, so little gain.

It is an immense irony that this closest of all elections, this most disputed of all results, comes after a battle between two candidates that the electorate does not have strong feelings about. The race has been so tight because voters' feelings toward Gore and Bush are so tepid. It is pure irony. It's as if the country is having a crisis of confidence, a bi-polar event, over the choice between Coke and Pepsi. Oreos or Ginger Snaps. Yale or Harvard.

This does not mean the consequences aren't grave. It's just weird.

The Wizard Always Wins: We'll get back to Kansas.

Wise men and graybeards say the nation may face a constitutional crisis, a loss of legitimacy, a civil society paralyzed. That may happen. And it may not. Chances are, in the very long run, everything will be okay and lessons will be learned. This isn't war. There aren't riots in the streets. Every four-score or so, the country hits a large constitutional pothole and still plows ahead.

These most somber pundis and professors, however, are serving an important purpose. They are part of solution, part of the political invisible hand that may help the politicians become statesmen and the consultants become counselors.

The time will come to close your eyes and click your heels.